You’ve probably heard that stretching is one of the pillars of an effective fitness plan, right up there with strength training and cardio.
This same message is shared by personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and coaches around the world:
You need to stay flexible to avoid injury, properly perform various exercises, and stay healthy into old age, and stretching is the best way to do this.
Some say that stretching isn’t all that important for improving your fitness, and that it can negatively affect your performance and might not be as helpful for protecting against injuries as was once believed.
Others say that while stretching may have some merit in certain situations, it’s unnecessary for most people.
Is stretching really an essential aspect of an effective fitness routine, or is it just an outdated ritual based on faulty past assumptions, like the idea we need to eat immediately after every workout or that doing more reps automatically leads to more muscle growth?
You’ll learn the answer in this podcast.
Specifically, you’re going to learn why people think stretching is important, whether or not stretching helps increase flexibility, prevent injuries, improve performance, and boost recovery and muscle growth, and the right (and wrong) ways to stretch, if you decide to do so.
Let’s dive in.
4:01 – Why do we stretch?
6:50 – How does stretching impact our muscles?
10:40 – How does stretching impact your fitness and health?
14:18 – Does stretching help with injury prevention?
16:59 – Does stretching enhance performance?
22:43 – Can stretching help you gain muscle?
25:30 – Can stretching help with recovery?
28:41 – How do I correctly include stretching in my training?
Mentioned on the show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Good day and welcome to a new episode of Muscle For Life. I’m your host, Mike Matthews, and thank you for being here and learning about stretching. That’s gonna be today’s topic, something that I’m asked fairly often about, and it occurred to me that I have not recorded a podcast on stretching. And so here we are now, the.
Discussions that I’ve had with many people about stretching usually goes like this. They have heard that it is very important. It is one of the pillars of an effective fitness plan up there with strength training and cardio. And if you’re not working on your stretching as well, your flexibility, your mobility.
Your functionality as some people like to refer to just stretching, then you are asking for all kinds of trouble. You are asking for injuries. You are asking for nagging aches and pains. You are asking for problems executing exercises properly, right? Where if you are not flexible enough, the story goes well.
More specifically, if you are not stretching enough. Then you can’t squat properly or you can’t bench press properly because of course, yeah, if you’re not flexible enough, then you’re gonna have problems squatting. But again, it’s more that you can’t gain that flexibility through just squatting alone. You must be stretching on the other hand.
There are people who disagree and they say that stretching is really not that important and it actually can negatively affect your performance in the gym, and it probably doesn’t help protect against injuries very much. And it’s something that you can do if you want to, or if you have a pronounced problem with flexibility that is getting in the way of your workouts or just your day to day living.
But otherwise, don’t worry about it. And in this podcast, We’re gonna talk about both sides of this argument and find out who’s right. And as usual, as you’ll learn in this episode, the truth is somewhere in the middle, there are shades of truth on both ends of the spectrum, and specifically what we are going to review in this podcast.
Our claims about stretchings impact on flexibility, injury prevention, performance recovery, and muscle. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world, Bigger, leaner, stronger, and thinner.
Leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cook. Book The Shredded Chef. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores.
And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100%. When you sign up for an Audible account, and this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audiobooks for free, just go to www.buy Legion, that’s b y legion.com/audible and sign up for your account.
So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna. Time proven and evidence based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger for Men, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger for Women, and the Shredded Chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipes.
All right, so let’s start our discussion with a simple question. Why do we stretch? And maybe more specifically, why do many fitness people stretch? Based on my interactions over the years, the main reason most people who are into working out or just exercising in any capacity, the main reason they stretch is because they think it’s going to reduce their risk of injury.
And this thinking is pretty simple. It just goes like this. Injuries are often caused by tight muscles and tight tendons, and particularly with weight lifting because you’re loading your body, you’re loading your muscles and your tendons, and then that plus too much tightness can turn into a disaster.
For example, a common situation that I’ve seen is people who believe that they have a tight IT band and that is then rubbing against other stuff on the side of their knees when they. Cycle run and so forth, and then that is irritating their IT band. Another common complaint I hear about is tight hamstrings and how they are more likely to tear when you’re running and also when you’re squatting.
And therefore, if you stretch your hamstrings regularly, you will reduce the chances of that happening. And this line of thinking is extended to pretty much. Muscle and tendon in the body. If it’s tight, it’s more likely to rub and snap and tear while you’re training, and that of course can lead to some pretty debilitating injuries.
Now, another common reason for fitness people to stretch is they think it helps them maintain proper technique when they’re lifting. They think that because their technique is failing them in some way while they’re training, that it’s a tight muscle that’s causing that. And if they could loosen the muscle, then it would stop throwing their form out.
And then of course, the idea is to stretch, to loosen the muscle. For example, I’ve heard from many people over the years who have trouble deadlifting properly. They have trouble maintaining that neutral lower back when they deadlift and their back tends to round, and they often think that it’s because their hamstrings are too tight.
And so they start stretching their hamstrings to try to deadlift better. Now, one of the reason people really into will stretch is because they think it’s going to enhance muscle growth and particularly, If you stretch in between sets, that’s the common claim. You’ll find bodybuilders talk about that sometimes.
And so you have the in between set stretching, and then often you’re supposed to do that plus postworkout stretching, and if you do it, you’ll gain muscle faster. And so we’re gonna be discussing those claims and more in this podcast. We’ll be getting into the nitty gritty details, but let’s start with a general overview of stretching and.
Actually impacts our muscles. What is actually happening? Stretching 1 0 1, so what many people think is they have tight muscles and that’s keeping them from moving in certain ways. Their tight shoulders are keeping them from standing up straight. They’re tight back muscles or what forces them to round their back when they deadlift and their tight hamstrings, glutes, or quads are messing up their squat form.
That’s why their knees came in, or that’s why they have. Too much arch in their lower back, or they have butt wink down at the bottom. And it’s understandable why many people think this because when we experience a physical limitation, especially when we’re working out or just doing anything that has a large range of motion, and we reach a point where we can no longer move, Further where we should be able to, or where other people can, It feels like our muscles are tight or it feels like our muscles are just too short, that they can’t move far enough.
And the feeling when we stretch is that we are lengthening them. And of course when we stretch, we do get more flexible. There’s no debat. That, but what is exactly happening here? Are we actually lengthening our muscles? Are we actually loosening our muscles? It’s not that simple actually, because the reason stretching makes you more flexible is not because it literally stretches your muscles like rubber bands.
It doesn’t make your muscles or your tendons longer looser, or even more pliable. Instead, what it is doing is it’s training your brain. To tolerate the sensation of your muscles being forced into that stretched position. So at any given time, your brain has an idea of how far you can safely extend or flex any of your joints, and when you go past, That comfort zone, it actually registers that as a threat and it sends a signal to your muscles, to stiffen, to prevent any further movement.
No more extension, no more flexion, stop. And this is important, right? Because if that mechanism were not in place, it could be very easy. To extend or flex a joint way too far, way past its normal range of motion. And then you could damage blood vessels, you could damage ligaments, you could damage nerves, muscles, other structures around the joint.
And if you want to quickly end painlessly, experience this, put one of your arms out in front of you and have your palm facing the ground, and then flex your wrist. Towards your torso and as far as you can go. So what you’ll find is about, I don’t know, around the 45 degree mark, it starts to get uncomfortable and you can’t go too much further.
Let’s see, Let me try, what can I can’t get to 90 on, I guess on my left wrist I can, but my right wrist, I can’t. Interesting. My left wrist is the one that I fractured many years ago playing football. That’s interesting. Anyway, my point is you can get to about 90 degrees probably at best.
And then there’s no more movement. You can’t move any further because your brain is telling your muscles to contract to prevent you from moving any further. The muscles and the tendons in your hand aren’t too stiff or too short to do it. It’s your brain saying, That’s enough. That’s the safe range of motion.
No further. Now, if you were to stretch your wrist every day consistently, Pulling your hand back a little bit further, a little bit further towards your torso, your brain would gradually allow the muscles in your hand to relax more and your flexibility would increase. Your brain would learn that it’s actually okay to go a little bit further, go a little bit further, and so forth.
And so that’s how stretching makes you more flexible. Now, how does that impact your fitness though and. Your health? Stretching and being more flexible does not inherently make you fitter or more athletic. Some level of joint stiffness is normal and healthy. You want your joints stiff enough to stay within that.
Healthy range of motion. You don’t want to have hyper mobility in your joints, for example. And if your lack of flexibility is preventing you from doing certain exercises, let’s say you struggle to squat down to parallel, you have trouble getting to parallel, or maybe you have trouble getting into the proper position to deadlift the proper bottom position.
Or maybe you struggle to fully lock out overhead in an overhead press, for example. If you’re running into any of those problems, then sure, stretching might be able to help again, depending on exactly what is going on. But if it really is just your brain is not letting your limbs move far enough and you’re not trying to move them too far, you’re not moving them to a point where it would cause an.
Then sure. Training your brain to allow your limbs to move through a full range of motion is going to improve your workouts. And if you improve your workouts, then you’re gonna improve muscle and strengthen over time. For example, range of motion is very important. Range of motion is a big part of effective strength training, and we all know that, of course.
Quarter squatting is not as effective as at least parallel squatting. And then of course there are sports where flexibility is hugely important and stretching might be necessary. Even if you have normal flexibility. Let’s say you wanna be a gymnast, yet you’re gonna have to stretch. You’re gonna have to become very flexible.
Swimmers also need a lot of flexibility, martial artists, dancers, and so forth. But for those of us who just want to get jacked, we don’t necessarily. To stretch, to be able to train properly, to stay injury free. And one of the reasons for this is many exercises. Many of the best exercises also double as stretches.
For example, pullups are a great upper back stretch, squats, proper squats. If you can do a proper squat. You are stretching your lower back, you are stretching your hips, you are stretching your hamstrings, and the bench press is a great stretch for your ps. So when you’re training and assuming you’re training properly and you’re doing those types of exercises, which you should be, you actually are doing a fair amount of stretching as well.
And because of the range of motion of many exercises we do, we really. Wouldn’t want to be much more flexible because again, there is a point where if you move a limb too far, you’re going to hurt yourself and you’ll never get there. Training in the gym, even if, let’s say you’re full squatting, right? Asto grass squatting, that requires even more flexibility than parallel squatting, particularly in the ankles.
A lot of people miss that and they don’t realize that it’s tight ankles that are getting in the way of their ability to reach depth. Even parallel. I’ve seen people with ankles that are too tight to even reach. Parallel in a squat, let alone reach more or less the floor. But regardless what I’m saying is the normal technique that you would use for pretty much every exercise you’d want to do has you moving within a safe and full range of motion.
And so if that’s all you did, Was, do the right exercises correctly. You may not need to do any stretching whatsoever. Again, to gain as much muscle and strength as you can and to stay injury free. And so let’s use that as a segue into. Injury prevention and stretching, because again, that is the most common reason, at least what I’ve seen, why fitness people stretch and it’s usually before workouts, sometimes after workouts.
And again, this comes back to the idea that if you’re flexible, you’re less likely to strain a muscle or tear a muscle or tear tendon and. It sounds plausible if you don’t know much about stretching, but there’s actually no scientific evidence to support that. For example, a 2008 study that was conducted by scientists at a mar hospital examined whether or not a preventative exercise program that included stretching could reduce overuse knee injuries and medial tibial stress syndrome shin splints.
And in this study, the researchers split 1,020. Dan. Soldiers undergoing three months of basic training into two groups. The first group did three 15 minute sessions per week of five exercises that were focused on improving their lower body strength, flexibility, and coordination. And then group two did the same thing but for their upper body.
So they did three 15 minute sessions per week of five upper body exercises for strength, flexibility, and coordination. And then what the researchers did is they recorded how many lower body injuries. Soldiers sustained. And what they found is both groups had almost the exact same risk of injury. There were 50 injuries in one of the groups and 48 in the other.
So just to be clear, then, three 15 minute sessions per week of stretching was not enough to reduce the risk of injury in these soldiers. And other studies have echoed. Findings, Stretching does not reduce your risk of getting hurt when you’re doing physically demanding things. In fact, some evidence suggests that stretching can increase the risk of injury, and particularly if you do it before you are gonna work out or.
Play some sort of physically demanding sport. And what researchers have found is that stiffer muscles are generally more efficient at absorbing energy during exercise and that can reduce the risk of muscle strains or muscle tears. So the less effectively your muscles can absorb energy, the more likely they are to move too far, basically is what it comes down to.
And if they are. To move too far, then they can tear. But I wouldn’t put too much weight on that point. I wouldn’t say, Oh, don’t stretch because you’re gonna get hurt. Although I would say don’t stretch right before you work out, but I’m getting ahead of myself. But this finding was one study and most of the studies on the matter have found that stretching doesn’t affect.
Risk of injury at all. It doesn’t raise it. It doesn’t lower it. All right, let’s move on to performance. Talk about stretching and performance. This one is a little bit more complicated because on one hand it would seem to make sense that if you loosen up before you play a sport or train, you might be able to perform better.
We’ve all experienced the uncomfortable tightness of our first warmup. On the barbell squat, for example, right? And so it would seem to make sense that if we get loosened up and we get warmed up by doing some stretching, we’re gonna have an easier time squatting. And this is something we’ve probably heard many times, especially if we grew up playing sports when our gym teachers and our coaches would have a stretch before practices and games.
And there are many fitness crews out there as well who talk about this. And on one hand, there. No evidence, very little evidence that stretching can improve performance. For example, studies from the University of Western Australia, the University of Milan, the University of North Hampton and McMaster University, have found that stretching either didn’t improve performance or even decreased performance.
For example, research has found that when athletes stretch a muscle for longer than 60 seconds, they then typically experience a pretty significant decrease in performance. Immediately after there was a study that was conducted by scientists at the University of Tampa, and they found that runners who stretched their calves, hamstrings, quads, hip and knee flexers, as well as their glutes for about 90 seconds.
8% slower on a one mile uphill running test. And this has been shown in other research with runners as well. There’s good evidence that if you stretch a fair amount, if you stretch enough before going for a run, it’s going to reduce or it’s likely to reduce your pace. And other studies have shown similar negative effects in other sporting activities like sprinting, jumping, and weightlifting.
And so at this point you are probably thinking that I’m about to just right. Stretching. As useless for performance, but not quite, because the majority of studies that show stretching has a detrimental effect on performance. They have a few things in common, so the participants are holding stretches for 60 to 90 seconds or longer.
They are pushing the limits of their range of motions. They’re doing the kind of stretching that hurts, where you’re really trying to retrain your brain. You’re trying to make your brain accept a little bit. And that involves a little bit of pain. And they’re also having people stretch before working out right before.
And that’s good to know because that’s not how most people stretch. Most people who stretch in the gym, for example, let’s say they’re gonna do whatever they’re gonna do, They’re gonna do their chest day, and so they might stretch their pecks for I don’t know, 10 seconds or maybe 20 seconds per side, and they might bring their elbows up above their head, stretch out.
Triceps, stretch out their lats again, maybe 10 or 20 seconds. And it’s usually part of a proper warmup routine too. So they might do their warmup set on the bench with a lightweight, get up, do a couple stretches, just trying to, loosen up, maybe increase blood flow. But they’re not trying to really push their limits of flexibility.
And that is not a problem that. Going to decrease performance or increase the risk of injury, because that’s what’s called dynamic stretching. So static stretching is where you hold a position for a certain amount of time, and again, you’re trying to push your limits of elasticity and you’re holding the outer limits for a certain period of time.
Dynamic stretching though refers to movements that repeatedly put muscles through their normal. Ranges of motion, the ranges of motion that your brain is comfortable with. So we’re talking about, let’s say air squats, right? So you’re doing some body weight squats to warm up quickly to get a little bit of blood flowing leg kicks or side lunges, arm circles, stuff like that.
And again, research has shown that those types of activities done before a workout, even immediately before a workout, are not going to decrease performance or increase the risk of injury. However, what you do wanna stay away from at. Immediately proceeding a workout is the more intense, protracted stretching.
The static stretching really what most people think of when they think of stretching.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one best selling weightlifting books for men and women in the world, Bigger, leaner, Stronger, and Thinni Leaner, Stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cookbook, the shredded.
Okay, so now let’s talk about stretching and muscle growth because there is a theory that stretching outside of your workouts can help you gain muscle faster. And this came from a review study that was conducted by scientists at the Federal University of Rio Grande Du. And what they did is they look.
Debt, 28 studies to see what effect chronic stretching had on muscle performance, which is just a catchall term for variety of disciplines, including jumping, sprinting, and strength training. And what the researchers found is that of the 28 studies that they reviewed, 14 showed that stretching did have beneficial effects on muscle performance.
While 14 found that stretching had no effect and none found that there was a decrease in performance. So if you’re stretching outside of your workouts, it’s safe to say that you’re not harming your performance, you’re not harming your muscle or strength gain, and you might be helping it More.
Investigation is going to be needed. The scientists in the study I just mentioned, they hypothesized that stretching could be enhancing muscle performance by decreasing the stiffness of muscle tendon units, which is just the name for the tendon and the connective tissue and the muscles as a group as well as.
Improving the ability of muscles to add new sarco mirrors to the muscle fibers and sarco mirrors are the basic building blocks of muscle cells, of muscle fibers is a simple way of thinking about that. And why would the flexibility in the mtus, why would that be good? The scientists. Think that more flexibility in these muscle tendon units, these groups of tendon and connective tissue and muscle tissue, makes them more efficient at storing energy during the concentric portion of an exercise, which is the lengthening portion when the muscles are lengthening, and the concentric is when they’re contracting.
So think of a squat when you are squatting down, when you are descending. That’s the eccentric portion, and the theory is, More flexibility in these groups of tendon and connective tissue and muscle tissue. Make them more capable of storing the energy that is being generated as you descend and then releasing it as you contract your muscles, as you shorten the muscles and that then, Results in better performance.
Anyway, we will see where that goes. Currently, it is a theory with some evidence, but it needs to be investigated further. It’s just something interesting that I thought was worth mentioning. Really, the key takeaway though is don’t do the more intense, prolonged, protracted stretching right before you work out.
If you’re gonna do that, do it well before you work out, like hours before maybe, or just do it later Just. Outside of your workouts if you want to. All right, let’s move on and talk about stretching in recovery, because what is common, what we’ve all seen is people heading to the mats after a workout.
So they do a strength training workout. They do a weightlifting workout and they go and they stretch and maybe foam roll and maybe massage gun. I mostly see stretching though, and the idea here, the theory. Is that you’ve just created a lot of metabolic byproducts from your workouts, and your body has to flush those out.
That’s part of the recovery process. And if you go stretch after a workout, oftentimes you’ll say you gotta do it right after the workout. You’re gonna speed that process up. Those metabolic byproducts, those unwanted. Toxins are going to be flushed outta the body faster, and then you are going to recover quicker from your workouts.
You’re gonna have less muscle soreness, you’re gonna be able to train more frequently, get in more volume, maybe even progress faster in terms of progressive overload. You’re gonna be able to add weight to the bar faster than you would otherwise. But unfortunately, as much as I wish that were true, several studies have shown that stretching, whether before or after exercise, has no effect on muscle soreness or muscle recovery.
Studies also show that metabolic byproducts associated with fatigue that are produced while you work out, that are produced during a workout are quickly cleared outta the. After the workout and stretching doesn’t help that process. It doesn’t speed it along. And research has also shown that stretching doesn’t have any effect on blood chemicals that are generally associated with fatigue.
And there’s even evidence that stretching can contribute to muscle soreness, especially if you’re not used to stretching or if you stretch too intensely or you stretch too long, then you can actually get more sore. Your workouts, and so where does this leave us with stretching and recovery? And it’s really not useful at all for the purposes of recovery, and particularly, again, the more intense type of stretching is not going to help you recover faster.
There’s evidence that low intensity stretching, again, more along the lines of the dynamic stretching that we’ve talked about, can actually speed up recovery. To some degree it may be able to reduce muscle soreness. We know that it causes no muscle damage, so it’s not gonna get in the way of anything, and there isn’t a great explanation yet as to how it could enhance recovery.
It may just have to do with blood flow. That has been shown in other studies that have looked. Just low intensity movement and how that can help with recovering, for example, from a lower body workout. So if you’ve ever done some low intensity cardio after a heavy squat day, you’ve probably noticed that the following day you were less sore than you might be used to.
If you don’t usually do the cardio, and if you haven’t experienced that, try it after a heavy squat day. The next day do 30 minutes or so of walking or light cycling and see how you feel the following day compared to how you usually feel. You’ll probably find that you’re a little bit less sore, and that’s likely because of enhanced blood flow.
Okay, so I think that’s enough theory for today’s episode. Let’s. Practical. Let’s talk about how to correctly include stretching in your training because as you’ve learned, there are many incorrect ways of doing it. And if you do it wrong, then you are not going to reduce the risk of injury. You are probably going to decrease your performance.
You can inhibit your postworkout recovery and even interfere with muscle growth, but, Again, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stretch. It just means that you should understand why are you stretching, and then understand how to do it correctly according to that goal. So let’s talk about just improving flexibility.
Let’s say you do want to improve your flexibility and you have a good reason for wanting to do that, such as not being able to reach proper depth in the squad, or at least. Reach it comfortably or touch the bar to your chest comfortably on the bench press and so forth. So in this case, static stretching, just regular old stretching can help you.
It will definitely improve your flexibility if you do it consistently. And according to the standard protocol, which is stretching the muscles, you wanna stretch two to three times per week, between 10 and 30 seconds per stretch, pushing to that point of slight discomfort, and you want to go for about 60 seconds.
Per muscle per stretching session. That’s the standard American College of Sports Medicine recommendation. For example. However, remember, you don’t wanna do it right before a workout because that can hinder your performance and it may even increase the risk of injury as well. Some research suggests that those negative effects only last about 10 minutes, but other studies have found that they last about an hour or so.
Let’s just play it safe and say that if you’re going to stretch before workout, Several hours before the workout. What most people do is they will wake up and do their stretches first thing. If they don’t then go directly to the gym. So let’s say they train in the afternoon or they train several hours from when they wake up.
They’ll do their stretches first thing in the morning, or they do ’em as a part of a nighttime. Wind down, relaxation routine. Do 10 or 15 minutes of stretching. And what I do personally is I do a round of yoga poses for my stretches. And if you wanna learn more about that, just head over to legion athletics.com and search yoga, and you’ll find an article that I wrote on what I do and why, and I stretch at some point in the day, usually in the early afternoon and currently.
While under lockdown, I’m training, I’m doing my lifting at seven or so at night, and so I’m doing my stretching no later than probably three or four. It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t want to do intense, prolonged stretching sessions on muscles that you just trained like. The same day, or maybe even the following day again, because you don’t want to cause more muscle damage and interfere with postworkout recovery.
And I would also say generally it’s unnecessary to do extreme stretching. If you just follow the recommendations I shared, you will do quite well. But if you are going to really. Push your limits for whatever reason, then try to give whatever muscle you are going to stretch very intensely, a couple of days to recover from your lifting.
And I understand that there are always secondary and tertiary muscle groups involved in workouts. And so think with your primary muscle groups. So if you just did a bunch of pressing, for example, give your pecks a couple of days before you stretch the shit out of. Okay, moving on. Let’s talk about pre-workout stretching.
If you want to, eh, loosen up. Get the blood flowing before you train. If you are lifting, I would say just use your exercise for this, right? So let’s say you’re gonna do a bench press, or you’re gonna do a squat. You’re gonna do a dead lift, do a couple of warmup sets with less weight on the bar we’re doing.
More reps, and that’s really what you’re doing. You’re loosening up, you’re getting blood flowing. But of course that’s with lifting. There are many other types of training that you might wanna do, and in this case, you want to go with that dynamic style of stretching, which is exercises that incorporate the muscles that you’re gonna be using, the primary muscles of the workout, and you’re not holding the stretches for very long, and usually you’re moving through resistance.
Training style movements. Maybe they’re just body weight, you might lunge and hold the lunge for no more than 20 seconds. Never pushing yourself past mild discomfort. You’re not, again, pushing to the limits of your flexibility to where your brain says okay. That’s enough. You really shouldn’t be experiencing more than maybe a five out of 10 in terms of discomfort if you’re doing pre-workout stretching, and you shouldn’t be holding the positions for long.
Okay. Stretching and recovery. Again, just to be redundant, the key here is no intense stretching after a workout, or ideally in the 24 to 48 hours following a workout for whatever muscle group you just train. But you can do low intensity stretching. I mean like a three or four out of 10 in terms of discomfort, where again, you’re moving through.
It could be just normal basic stretches. It could be yoga poses, which just stretch multiple muscle groups at once. Really, that’s why I do them at least, and where you are not holding positions for more than maybe 30 seconds. And again, you’re not pushing yourself anywhere near your limits of flexibility.
And if you’re gonna do this, don’t expect any miracles. Don’t expect much to change at all. You probably won’t notice anything, but if you follow my instructions, at least you won’t be harming anything either. And as for stretching to boost muscle growth, keep in mind there’s very little evidence that this works.
There’s just one study, 30 participants very small. Increase in muscle growth in just one muscle. But it’s probably not gonna hurt if you follow my advice. So here it is. What you wanna do is in between your hard sets while you’re resting, you want to stretch the main muscles that you’re training, but your stretching needs to be low intensity.
So you’re not holding positions for more than 20 or 30 seconds, and you’re stretching below the point of discomfort. So let’s say maybe a five or six out of 10, you were definitely not pushing to your limits of flexibility and you should be experiencing basical. No discomfort, and that is the protocol that was used in one study that found slightly more muscle growth in one muscle group by doing that.
And in case you’re wondering, I don’t bother with it, I don’t stretch in between my sets because the evidence is weak and the effect size is small and I don’t like it . I’d rather just rest. I don’t feel like stretching in between my sets. All right, so those are all the major points I want to share with you in this podcast.
Let’s just quickly recap. The key takeaways, first, you have to approach stretching in a personalized matter. The details matter. There isn’t just a one size fits all approach that I would recommend, because stretching isn’t going to inherently just improve your health or fitness any which way you want to do it.
It’s also not an essential part of proper workout programming, and it’s not without downsides if you don’t. So you need to decide why you wanna stretch. So what are you trying to do and why are you trying to improve your flexibility and why are you trying to prevent injuries? Are you trying to boost workout performance?
Are you trying to boost post-workout recovery? And the best strategy for one of those reasons may not be the best. For another, and in some cases it may even detract from your goals. So if you are going to stretch regularly, just make sure that you are paying attention to the details. Make sure that what you’re doing makes sense given what you are trying to achieve.
All right. That’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility, and thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier As.
And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com, just muscle F or life.com, and share your thoughts on how I can do this better.
I read everything myself, and I’m always looking or constructive feedback, even if it is c. I’m open to it and of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email. That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at multiple life.com.
And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.
+ Scientific References
- Evangelista, A. L., De Souza, E. O., Moreira, D. C. B., Alonso, A. C., Teixeira, C. V. L. S., Wadhi, T., Rauch, J., Bocalini, D. S., Pereira, P. E. D. A., & Greve, J. M. D. (2019). Interset Stretching vs. Traditional Strength Training: Effects on Muscle Strength and Size in Untrained Individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33, S159–S166. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003036
- Junior, R. M., Berton, R., de Souza, T. M. F., Chacon-Mikahil, M. P. T., & Cavaglieri, C. R. (2017). Effect of the flexibility training performed immediately before resistance training on muscle hypertrophy, maximum strength and flexibility. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(4), 767–774. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-016-3527-3
- Mizuno, T., Matsumoto, M., & Umemura, Y. (2014). Stretching-induced deficit of maximal isometric torque is restored within 10 minutes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(1), 147–153. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182964220
- Magnusson, S. P. (2007). Passive properties of human skeletal muscle during stretch maneuvers. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 8(2), 65–77. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.1998.tb00171.x
- Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., Nieman, D. C., & Swain, D. P. (2011). Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43(7), 1334–1359. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb
- Ferreira-Júnior, J. B., Benine, R. P. C., Chaves, S. F. N., Borba, D. A., Martins-Costa, H. C., Freitas, E. D. S., Bemben, M. G., Vieira, C. A., & Bottaro, M. (2019). Effects of Static and Dynamic Stretching Performed Before Resistance Training on Muscle Adaptations in Untrained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000003283
- Medeiros, D. M., & Lima, C. S. (2017). Influence of chronic stretching on muscle performance: Systematic review. Human Movement Science, 54, 220–229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2017.05.006
- Herbert, R. D., & de Noronha, M. (2007). Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4, CD004577. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004577.pub2
- Shrier, I. (1999). Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: A critical review of the clinical and basic science literature. In Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp. 221–227). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. https://doi.org/10.1097/00042752-199910000-00007
- Herbert, R. D., & Gabriel, M. (2002). Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: Systematic review. In British Medical Journal (Vol. 325, Issue 7362, pp. 468–470). BMJ. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7362.468
- Martin, N. A., Zoeller, R. F., Robertson, R. J., & Lephart, S. M. (1998). The comparative effects of sports massage, active recovery, and rest in promoting blood lactate clearance after supramaximal leg exercise. In Journal of Athletic Training (Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 30–35). National Athletic Trainers Association. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1320372/
- Cè, E., Limonta, E., Maggioni, M. A., Rampichini, S., Veicsteinas, A., & Esposito, F. (2013). Stretching and deep and superficial massage do not influence blood lactate levels after heavy-intensity cycle exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 31(8), 856–866. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2012.753158
- LL, S., MH, B., TC, C., MR, M., JA, H., ME, F., & RG, I. (1993). The effects of static and ballistic stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness and creatine kinase. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64(1), 103–107. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.1993.10608784
- Apostolopoulos, N. C., Lahart, I. M., Plyley, M. J., Taunton, J., Nevill, A. M., Koutedakis, Y., Wyon, M., & Metsios, G. S. (2018). The effects of different passive static stretching intensities on recovery from unaccustomed eccentric exercise – A randomized controlled trial. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 43(8), 806–815. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2017-0841
- Beckett, J. R. J., Schneiker, K. T., Wallman, K. E., Dawson, B. T., & Guelfi, K. J. (2009). Effects of static stretching on repeated sprint and change of direction performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(2), 444–450. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181867b95
- La Torre, A., Castagna, C., Gervasoni, E., Cè, E., Rampichini, S., Ferrarin, M., & Merati, G. (2010). Acute effects of static stretching on squat jump performance at different knee starting angles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(3), 687–694. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c7b443
- Fowles, J. R., Sale, D. G., & Macdougall, J. D. (2000). Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors. Journal of Applied Physiology, 89(3), 1179–1188. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.2000.89.3.1179
- Kay, A. D., & Blazevich, A. J. (2012). Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: A systematic review. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 44(1), 154–164. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318225cb27
- Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Brown, L. E., De Souza, E. O., Wistocki, D. R., Davis, G. S., Naimo, M. A., Zito, G. A., & Wilson, J. M. (2014). Effects of static stretching on 1-mile uphill run performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(1), 161–167. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182956461
- Damasceno, M. V., Duarte, M., Pasqua, L. A., Lima-Silva, A. E., MacIntosh, B. R., & Bertuzzi, R. (2014). Static stretching alters neuromuscular function and pacing strategy, but not performance during a 3-km running time-trial. PLoS ONE, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0099238
- Fletcher, I. M., & Anness, R. (2007). The acute effects of combined static and dynamic stretch protocols on fifty-meter sprint performance in track-and-field athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), 784–787. https://doi.org/10.1519/R-19475.1
- Bradley, P. S., Olsen, P. D., & Portas, M. D. (2007). The effect of static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on vertical jump performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(1), 223–226. https://doi.org/10.1519/00124278-200702000-00040
- Rubini, E. C., Costa, A. L. L., & Gomes, P. S. C. (2007). The effects of stretching on strength performance. In Sports Medicine (Vol. 37, Issue 3, pp. 213–224). Sports Med. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737030-00003
- Marek, S. M., Cramer, J. T., Fincher, A. L., Massey, L. L., Dangelmaier, S. M., Purkayastha, S., Fitz, K. A., & Culbertson, J. Y. (2005). Acute effects of static and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on muscle strength and power output. Journal of Athletic Training, 40(2), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0162-0908(08)70360-x
- Cramer, J. T., Housh, T. J., Johnson, G. O., Weir, J. P., Beck, T. W., & Coburn, J. W. (2007). An acute bout of static stretching does not affect maximal eccentric isokinetic peak torque, the joint angle at peak torque, mean power, electromyography, or mechanomyography. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 37(3), 130–139. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2007.2389
- Weldon, S. M., & Hill, R. H. (2003). The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: A systematic review of the literature. In Manual Therapy (Vol. 8, Issue 3, pp. 141–150). Churchill Livingstone. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1356-689X(03)00010-9
- Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2014). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. In British Journal of Sports Medicine (Vol. 48, Issue 11, pp. 871–877). BMJ Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2013-092538
- Baxter, C., Mc Naughton, L. R., Sparks, A., Norton, L., & Bentley, D. (2017). Impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners. In Research in Sports Medicine (Vol. 25, Issue 1, pp. 78–90). Taylor and Francis Inc. https://doi.org/10.1080/15438627.2016.1258640
- Brushøj, C., Larsen, K., Albrecht-Beste, E., Nielsen, M. B., Løye, F., & Hölmich, P. (2008). Prevention of overuse injuries by a concurrent exercise program in subjects exposed to an increase in training load: A randomized controlled trial of 1020 army recruits. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 36(4), 663–670. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546508315469
- Weppler, C. H., & Magnusson, S. P. (2010). Increasing Muscle Extensibility: A Matter of Increasing Length or Modifying Sensation? Physical Therapy, 90(3), 438–449. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20090012
- Blazevich, A. J., Cannavan, D., Waugh, C. M., Miller, S. C., Thorlund, J. B., Aagaard, P., & Kay, A. D. (2014). Range of motion, neuromechanical, and architectural adaptations to plantar flexor stretch training in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(5), 452–462. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00204.2014
- Konrad, A., & Tilp, M. (2014). Increased range of motion after static stretching is not due to changes in muscle and tendon structures. Clinical Biomechanics, 29(6), 636–642. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2014.04.013
- Behm, D. G., Blazevich, A. J., Kay, A. D., & McHugh, M. (2015). Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: A systematic review. In Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism (Vol. 41, Issue 1, pp. 1–11). National Research Council of Canada. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0235
- Medeiros, D. M., Cini, A., Sbruzzi, G., & Lima, C. S. (2016). Influence of static stretching on hamstring flexibility in healthy young adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. In Physiotherapy Theory and Practice (Vol. 32, Issue 6, pp. 438–445). Taylor and Francis Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1080/09593985.2016.1204401
- Magnusson, S. P. (2007). Passive properties of human skeletal muscle during stretch maneuvers. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 8(2), 65–77. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.1998.tb00171.x